Alleged Tas abuser 'groomed whole family'

·2-min read

A woman has told an inquiry an alleged pedophile nurse who treated her daughter at a Tasmanian hospital "essentially groomed the whole family".

Kim, a pseudonym, was the first person to give evidence on Monday at public hearings of a commission of inquiry into state government responses to child sexual abuse in public institutions.

She said her daughter, Paula, also a pseudonym, who died accidentally in the early 2000s, had been admitted to the Launceston General Hospital because of an eating disorder.

There she was treated by James Geoffrey Griffin, who took his own life in late 2019 after being charged with repeatedly sexually abusing a child.

Kim said Griffin was regularly in contact with Paula when she was not in hospital, inviting her to barbecues and sleepovers at his house and taking her on an interstate trip.

"I was grateful for some help. It was a very overwhelming time. You trust health professionals. They're people you're supposed to look up to," she said.

Kim said she read about allegations levelled at Griffin in the newspaper, many years after her daughter's death.

"It made me feel so ill. All these thoughts raced through my head," she said.

"Maybe this contributed to all of the issues she had through her life.

"It's something that's always going to be with me and I'll always wonder. I can't speak to (her) about it. Nothing will really be resolved for me."

Kim indicated to the inquiry she was relieved to see the "friendly face" of Griffin, who she had known prior, when she initially brought Paula to hospital.

"Essentially he groomed the whole family. He gained our trust ... he was going to be helping our daughter," she said.

The inquiry was called in November 2020 after allegations against Griffin gained prominence, as well as other accusations of child sexual abuse by workers at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

Within a month of Griffin, 69, being charged in September 2019, four other woman had come forward with claims of abuse between the 1980s and 2012, a coroner's report found.

The inquiry heard Paula had body image issues in high school and was sexually assaulted by a male teacher who picked her up after work, drove her outside Launceston and kissed her on the lips.

Kim said the teacher, who was in his 30s, later sent Paula a letter professing his love for her.

Kim described Paula as a happy and bright quiet achiever.

"She was kind, she was smart. She was important. We miss her presence every single day," she said.

The inquiry is holding six weeks of public hearings and is expected to deliver a final report by May 2023 with recommendations for reform.

Commissioner Marcia Neave AO said stories of children being abused by people in power and allegations being ignored or downplayed would be heard.

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